Enhancing diversity in UK wheat through a public sector prebreeding programme

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


In the next 50 years, we will need to grow as much wheat grain as has been produced since the beginning of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago. Historically the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) made experimental crosses with wild wheats and related grasses, capable of transferring traits of high agronomic potential into wheat. However, the PBI was privatised in 1987 and the production of such crosses almost stopped. We will re-establish a wheat pre-breeding programme developing such experimental crosses in the UK. , and provide wheat germplasm, characterised for the next generation of key traits, such as yield, and genetic markers for selecting these traits. We will develop novel pre-breeding wheat germplasm, using three different but complementary strategies, to maximise the introduction of diversity and beneficial traits into a range of wheat lines. First we will develop germplasm from crosses involving wheat landraces or locally adapted varieties, derived from exiting germplasm collections. Secondly we will create synthetic hexaploid wheats by artificially crossing tetraploid or "pasta" wheats with diploid wheat progenitors. This captures diversity in both the tetraploid and diploid wheat progenitors. Thirdly alien introgression will be used to transfer small segments of chromosomes of wild relatives containing the target genes, intowheat. The parental material used in the initial prebreeding crosses will be characterised to ensure the maximal levels of diversity are being exploited. New sequencing technologies will be used to generate very high density maps. Key target traits relating to yield, of interest to both UK breeders and academics, have been identified. We will screen for, biomass and enhanced N and P use efficiency, Take-All and insect resistance including Bulb fly and Aphids. The new germplasm generated in this project will be exploited by breeders for crossing with their elite lines to develop new varieties for use by farmers.


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